Monday, May 29, 2017

The days leading up to 2017 Chattanooga Half

Last Sunday, May 21, was my goal race for the spring, with the Chattanooga Half Ironman - my third triathlon of the Half Ironman distance and my second time at the race in Chattanooga. For those who may not be as familiar with the various distances of triathlon, a Half Ironman, or 70.3, consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run - a total of 70.3 miles elapsed.  I wanted to do this race again to see exactly how much I could improve in one year of coaching, experience, training hard, minor gear upgrades, and a lot of hard work.

On Thursday morning before the race, my mom flew down from New Hampshire to Atlanta to come and visit and see my race, but also my life in Atlanta. She has been down once before, which was right after I moved here and I was in a different apartment and neighborhood and didn't have any friends yet, favorite places, or know my way around at all. This was really her first opportunity to come and see what my life is actually like here and meet some of my friends-turned-family that she hears about all the time! Coming with us to Chattanooga for the race would be my friend and most amazing supporter of my athletic goals and triathlon, Brick. It was going to be a fun weekend for Brick and my mom to be able to meet in person for the first time as well!

The three of us planned to drive up to Chattanooga on Friday afternoon, so for last minute preparations before leaving, on Thursday evening, my mom and I went over to my coach Jerome's house for a last minute bike check and pep talk to get all of my questions answered. I had actually taken my bike to Atlanta Cycling just a few days before to wash it and had ended up getting one of my tires replaced as well at the recommendation of one of the techs there. As much as I trust them, I wanted one final check on the bike because I had also used it on the trainer after taking it there and I always worry I am going to loosen or mess something up by washing it.

With some last minute adjustments and the addition of some amazing decals (is that what you call them?!) from the coaches at ITL, my bike was ready for Chatt. Jerome helped me to lessen the load on my bike by only carrying the bare essentials of a tire repair kit and cleaning out the empty wrappers from Stinger Waffles from my bike satchels. We had discussed him letting me borrow his race wheels and he also gave me an aero helmet I could borrow for the race if I wanted. However, I know myself and I really wanted to see how I did on this race without these types of enhancements on my bike. I knew that if I had a good bike split, I would question how much of it was the hard work I had put in and how much was just bike improvements/purchased speed. I wanted to do well on the bike that I had trained on. Last year I didn't have the aero bars on my bike, I put those on last July, but otherwise - the only difference between last year and this year was whatever strength I gained (and my sweet decals.)

I'm sure as I get further into this sport, I will get into wanting the better, faster gear, but I know myself well enough that I need to take small steps forward to get myself comfortable and go my own way. I can't say enough though about how willing my coach was to offer me anything and everything from advice to bike support to gear to help me in the last days before the race.

At this point I had already been panicking a bit about the weather. From mid-week on, the forecast said thunderstorms were expected all day Sunday, the day of the race. With about a 80-90% chance starting in the morning. It worried not because I didn't want to race in the rain - I was okay with that for the most part. But mostly because I was scared that a portion of the race would be cancelled. If there were thunderstorms in the morning, I imagined there was no way we could get into a river and swim. I know that lots of times at races, Ironman will cancel the swim or different portions of the race for safety and I mainly just wanted to have the opportunity to compete.

I put together a backup plan and backup race for myself and did my best not to think about it but it was definitely in the back of my mind. Talking with Jerome made me feel better and more prepared for whatever would come that weekend.

Friday morning, I swam at Windy Hill and then stopped on my way home to pick up a bagel for breakfast and one to bring up to Chattanooga for Saturday if I wanted it. As I parked, I had a flashback to last September when I met Adam and Jerome at the same bagel place for breakfast for the first time to learn more about ITL and my training goals. I wasn't in the market for a coach at that time of year but was blown away with how nice and welcoming Adam and Jerome were and after that meeting decided to join ITL for a few workouts. The rest is history and I was feeling nostalgic so shot a text to the two of them before heading home to finish packing up to head to Chattanooga.

We left at about 2:00, arriving in Chattanooga around 4:30 and checking into our hotel at The Chattanoogan. The hotel was about 1 mile from the Ironman Village / Expo / Transition / Finish and at first I was a little worried about it. I didn't know much about the hotel since it wasn't a brand hotel and I was unsure if being a bit further out than what we were last year would make things more complicated or not. When we arrived, I no longer worried because the hotel was gorgeous and Brick and my mom were both really happy with it. I had some fear at the last minute that I had booked a random motel, but this was actually way nicer than the Holiday Inn we had been at the year before. There were bowls of candy and fruit water at check-in and the room was super spacious so we were all happy campers.

We dropped our things and went to the Expo where I checked in, we explored the vendors, and then walked down by the river and transition a bit before heading to dinner. The expo didn't seem to have as many things as last year, but perhaps I was just wide eyed last year and everything seemed new and exciting. We were sure to snap some pictures though!

For dinner, we went to Big River Grille, which is where Brick and I ate dinner last year on both Friday night and again on Sunday. I know there are tons of restaurants in Chattanooga that we could try, but I had it in my head to want to do the same thing and want to get their pizza that I had eaten the year before. Brick ordered a very spicy burger and my mom ordered the chicken mac and cheese and of course, I ate off both their plates naturally. I was feeling good and relaxed and even had some time for some silliness, courtesy of the random brick boat outside the restaurant.

We returned to the hotel for an early bedtime, sleeping in on Saturday morning. This year, my Saturday before the race was very low key. Last year I had a short shake out workout to get in and wanted to spend time driving the bike course. This year, my coach had said a shake out wasn't necessary and I felt comfortable with what I had remembered of the course. We slept in and then went over to a coffee shop called the Frothy Monkey for some morning joe. It was a short walk from our hotel and turns out also the home of the Chattanooga Choo Choo so we explored the hotel a bit before returning back to our room. I had eaten food that I brought for breakfast, planning to go out for a late lunch as the main meal of the day. The day before I felt I had gone a bit overboard on eating with bagels, pizza, cookies, cake, etc. so was feeling full. My friend Kristin came over and hung out with us for a bit, we relaxed, and eventually made our way over to the Bitter Alibi for lunch.

The restaurant was great but I definitely made the wrong choice in meals. I ordered a egg and toast dish, still feeling heavy from the day before, but then ended up eating half of my mom's order of Fluffernutter French Toast. It was so good!

After lunch we grabbed my bike and drove the one mile to the transition area to check my bike in for the evening. I had been able to scope out the location of my bike rack the day before, so I was already feeling comfortable there and mostly wanted to be sure to just connect with the ITL crew before dropping my bike. We found a bunch of people in the race expo area and Adam let some of the air out of my tires before I dropped it off. My coach Jerome had told me that I would be okay if I left the air pressure how I wanted them the night before, but then last minute Adam said to double check in the morning and that I would be able to find someone with a bike pump in the AM.

Adam also advised me that I shouldn't go with what I had been planning to do as far as timing to start the race. I had planned with one of my friends from training, Lauren, to meet her in the morning for the swim start and get there pretty early.  When I mentioned that to Adam, he said that he thought I would be better off if I planned to start a bit later. As a stronger swimmer, it serves me well to start further back, and have weaker swimmers start more towards the front, that way we might even off and end up near one another on the bike. I hadn't thought at all about this type of strategic placement at all the year before so it was an interesting concept. My main goal was that I wanted to have friends to meet in the morning and hang out with while in line. Last year, Brick came with me early in the morning and we spent more than an hour waiting in a long line at the swim start. I was hoping to allow my mom and Brick to have a less hectic morning and go to the swim start on my own this year.

After dropping off my bike and seeing the ITL crew, Adam told me that he thought it would be perfect for me to meet two other athletes who train with us, Tisha and Krystle, at 5:20 at the transition area to go together to the swim start.

With a plan in place, we returned to the hotel for a little bit, where I worked on my race plan and mental prep, before heading out to go to Whole Foods to meet even more ITL people for a small dinner. I picked at some chicken, vegetables, mac and cheese, rice and potatoes, but wasn't feeling super hungry. The mood wasn't quite as fun and energetic as the ITL crew usually is as I think pre-race nerves were starting to kick in for most, at least they were for me.

We didn't stay too long and then returned to our hotel where I got into bed and put music on and started to review my final race plan and mental prep for the next day.  My mom sat with me, reading a book, and Brick let us know she was going to venture out and try to get a drink somewhere nearby to where we were staying. It was still early, maybe 7:30 pm, and super bright outside, so I didn't blame her for not being ready to settle in for the night. Wanting to get myself ready for bed, I pulled the blackout curtains shut in our hotel room and dimmed the light so that hopefully it would start to cue my body to be bedtime soon. With my headphones on and laptop open, I was trying to stay focused and get my mind ready for the next day before an early bedtime, but I did send a message to Brick to make sure she had found a place to go okay.

Quickly she responded back, "I'm coming back. Look outside." and I got out of bed to pull back the curtains to a completely dark sky and DOWNPOURING rain. Then the thunder and lightning started.

Part of me thought it was a good sign - that maybe the weather would just empty everything out now. But the forecast said for thunderstorms all through the next day as well and it was SO loud and so strong that I started to get really panicky. I thought of my bike sitting outside in this storm and texted my coach, who told me not to worry and that things would be fine. He said the forecast for the next day said light rain. At the same time, Adam posted in the ITL Facebook page saying to have positive thoughts for the next day - that it would be 70 and sunny and he wouldn't have anyone mentioning anything else. With the coaches clearly not wanting us to panic about the weather, I did so to my mom and decided to just head to bed. I had reviewed my race plan a number of times and felt good mentally, although concerned about what was happening outside. I continued to have my headphones on to not see or hear the storm, did a meditation on my phone, and went to bed thinking that I would just take whatever the next day brought when it came!

Tomorrow I will post the recap of the actual race. Thank you for reading! I also wanted to take a moment to address Memorial Day and say a thank you to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for my own freedoms. This day does not go by without some reflection on my part and I am beyond grateful for the bravery of few that protect the freedoms of all. Thank you and my heart goes out to those.

No comments:

Post a Comment